Strategic health authorities have been instructed to make support for GP practice data accreditation a priority, the Healthcare Computing conference in Harrogate heard after a GP raised problems about funding for the initiative.

Dr Mary Hawking, a GP in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, told the conference that Bedfordshire had 93 practices but no facilitators from the data quality organisation PRIMIS+ to support them through the data accreditation directed enhanced service (DES).

She added: “I am anticipating that come the end of 2008 we will have no practices that will have been data accredited and then the DES will end.”

Sheila Teasdale, strategic director for PRIMIS+, said her organisation had been flagging up the potential funding problem to the data accreditation board for almost a year.

But she added: “Guidance has recently been issued to SHAs about the Operating Framework for 2007/8 which lays great stress on data quality and these are in the performance targets for SHA and PCT chief executives.”

PRIMIS+ is providing training for the data accreditation element of the DES. The incentive scheme contains four components covering agreement of a practice plan for participation in the National Programme for IT, achieving data accreditation in preparation for the upload of summary records to the spine, taking part in the electronic prescription service and migration to a CfH accredited server. The DES is due to run to 31 March 2008.

Latest figures from PRIMIS+ show that 1607 people have registered to download the CHART e-audit tool which allows GP practices to assess the quality of their data for the DES and 322 practices from 52 PCTs has so far uploaded data.

Dr Dai Evans, PRIMIS+ clinical adviser, told the Healthcare Computing conference session on data accreditation that he had been “reasonably happy” with the quality of data from the 322 practices although he pointed that they were likely to be at “at the sharper end” of data quality.

He added: “What happens later in the year will be very interesting as there is going to be an encouragement centrally for as many practices as possible to send up their data.”

The e-audit tool contains 130 different queries in 16 sets of data to assess the accuracy level of clinical coding and recording within each practice. The accreditation process also involves a practice visit from an assessor to undertake a qualitative analysis of the practice data. More than 310 facilitators have been trained by PRIMIS+ since October to support PCTs and GP practices through the process.

Helen Atkinson, business development consultant with PRIMIS+, told the session that three issues had emerged from the data accreditation process so far: engaging clinicians in the process, the level of IT skills in practices – for instance in working with Excel – and what she described as “peer etiquette.”

She added: “You can have three doctors in a practice who are coding correctly and one who isn’t. It’s very difficult for those three clinicians to approach the fourth about it. This is an issue which is raising its head time and time again.”

The sessions heard that it would be a tight timetable to get all practices accredited by the end of March next year and Dr Evans urged all patients to check their own records as well.

He asked the session: “How confident are you that your record is accurate and complete?”

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